Baltimore sheriff’s deputies' discovery of fentanyl during an eviction sparked a state and federal investigation that led to the indictment of 19 people alleged to be part of a criminal organization led by Baltimore rapper Lor X, officials said Thursday.
The indictment does not bring murder charges against any members of the organization but said “overt acts" of the drug conspiracy are related to the 2019 murder of Gerald Brown, the former Baltimore basketball star who led Frederick Douglass High School to an undefeated season in 2002.
Lor X, whose real name is Xavier Johnson, 30, was arrested over the summer after being charged in the 42-count indictment in Baltimore Circuit Court, but now the state is making public the extent of its investigation. Johnson faces a variety of charges, including under the state’s gang and drug kingpin statutes, though a judge released him on home detention pending trial. His attorney, Kenneth Ravenell, declined to comment.
The indictment says that in 2018 Johnson directed Brown, described as a member of the organization, to rent a downtown apartment to use as a stash house. It was raided on May 20, 2019, by law enforcement, though Brown was not charged.
“On June 7, 2019, Gerald Brown was murdered at 3711 W. Forest Park Avenue, shortly after he was heard saying that he was not going to ‘go down’ for the items recovered in the search warrant at 300 St. Paul Place,” alleges the indictment, which provides no additional information on the killing.
“There are conclusions you could draw, but none of them have been proved,” Attorney General Brian Frosh said.
Brown was a standout basketball player at Frederick Douglass and played at Providence College and Loyola University Maryland, where he averaged 20 points per game. Following his basketball career, he remained popular in the community, known for community work and posting humorous videos on social media.
City police said Brown’s killing remains an open homicide investigation and declined to comment.
The case is the first brought by a partnership between the DEA, Maryland State Police and the Maryland Attorney General’s Office as part of the federal Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force started in September 2019. The Baltimore Sheriff’s Office also assisted, officials said; Baltimore police and prosecutors apparently were not involved.
The Attorney General’s Office accuses Johnson of shuttling between Baltimore and Los Angeles to facilitate both his music career and a drug enterprise.
Johnson, who the indictment said refers to himself as the “South Baltimore Godfather,” was signed in 2016 to the 300 Entertainment label, founded by executive and Baltimore native Kevin Liles. That year he released a mix tape that included an appearance from NBA YoungBoy as well as popular Baltimore rappers including YGG Tay, who himself is awaiting trial on unrelated federal charges.
More recently Johnson was said to be part of the local Austin Music Group. One of his most recent videos uploaded to YouTube has 385,000 views.
Johnson and a second man, Donte Jones, are charged under the state’s gang statute, which functions more like the federal racketeering charge. Frosh said the state must prove that members had a common purpose and that there was a hierarchy to the group.
Jones' attorney also declined to comment.
Authorities say Johnson supplied a drug shop in the 1900 block of W. Lombard St. and had stash houses in Cherry Hill and other locations on the city’s west side. In a 17-page charging document filed this spring, when Johnson was first arrested, authorities outlined a series of surveillance operations conducted on Johnson in which they say they observed him dealing drugs.
They recovered 4,700 grams of suspected fentanyl from a stash house they believed Johnson was supplying in the 2800 block of W. Mulberry St. Two kilograms of fentanyl and heroin were recovered in a raid at a home in the 800 block of Seagull Ave. In total, authorities say 9 kilograms of fentanyl and other drugs were recovered throughout the case, as well as “multiple firearms” through undercover purchases and search warrants.
“Our indictments state that this organization was supplying large amounts of deadly drugs throughout the Baltimore Metropolitan Area,” Frosh said. “In fact, the Strike Force team seized enough fentanyl to kill 4 million people. We look forward to continuing our work with our federal, state, and local partners. Together, we make communities across our state safer.”